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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage lawsuits: Hearing
before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Timelines of 3 cases appealed to the 9th Circuit:
Latta v. Otter from Idaho;
Sevcik v. Sandoval from Nevada.
Jackson v. Abercrombie
from Hawaii.

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LGBT symbol Timelines of the three cases. leading up to the hearing before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on 2014-SEP-08:

  • Idaho: Latta v. Otter:

    • 2013-NOV: Lawsuit: Four lesbian couples filed a lawsuit in Idaho District Court.

      • Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers were married in California during 2008. Lori and Sharene Watsen were married in New York State during 2011. Both couples are residents of Idaho and want their state to recognize their existing marriage.

      • Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer are not married. Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson are also single. Both couples seek to be married in Idaho where they live.

    Currently, the state does not recognize their relationships. All four couples are regarded as "legal strangers" -- just roommates -- without the important protections and status that marriage brings for themselves and their children. The lead defendant is C.L. "Butch" Otter, in his official capacity as governor of Idaho. The other defendant is Christopher Rich, in his official capacity as Recorder of Ada County, Idaho. His office refused to issue marriage licenses to the two unmarried couples.

    • 2013-JUN-26: Federal DOMA ruling: The U.S. Supreme Court declared that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional and that the federal goverment must treate same-sex and opposite-sex married couples equally. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, based the ruling on the due process and equal protection clauses found in the 14th Amendment of the federal Constitution. The majority of Justices determined that these clauses apply to marriage by same-sex couples. This Supreme Court decision triggered many dozens of lawsuits by same-sex couples seeking the right to marry.

    • 2014-MAY-13: Circuit Court ruling: District Court Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale declared that the state's marriage bans -- found in its statutes and Amendment 2 to the state Constitution -- are unconstitutional. As in many federal, state, and county judges before and since, she based her ruling on 14th Amendment of the federal Constitution.

      Lead plaintiff, Susan Latta, issued a news release, saying:

      "After living in Idaho for more than two decades, it means so much for a court to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally. We love this state and want nothing more than to be treated as equal citizens who contribute to the community and help make Idaho an even better place for everyone who lives here. Today's ruling means that we can finally have the same legal protections as other married couples and [know] that our family is legally secure."

      Actually, her statement is in error. A stay prevented the District Court's decision from being implemented pending an appeal.

    • 2014-MAY-16: Marriages forbidden: District Court Judge Dale had ordered county clerks in Idaho to start issuing marriage licenses on this day. She did not stay her ruling, as most other courts have. However, the day before, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay prohibiting marriages by same-sex coules for the foreseeable future.

More information about Latta v. Otter, including source references

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  • Nevada: Sevcik v. Sandoval:

    • 2012-APR-10: Lawsuit filed: Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit "Sevcik v. Sandoval." in Nevada's federal District Court on behalf of eight same-sex couples. They live in the state and want to marry. However, they are prevented from doing so by an Amendment to the state Constitution passed by voters in the years 2000 and 2002. As in previous and subsequent lawsuits dealing with marriage equality, their argument was based on the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which requires governments to treat people -- and thus couples -- equally. The goal of the lawsuit is to attain marriage equality in Nevada.

    • 2012-AUG-10: Lawsuit accepted: The District Court agreed to hear the case. They also allowed the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit. The group had sponsored the year 2000/2002 state constitutional amendment to ban marriage by same-sex couples.

    • 2012-NOV-26: Ruling by District Court: Chief Judge Robert C. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada ruled against the plaintiffs in "Sevcik v. Sandoval." He based his ruling on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1972 called Baker v. Vermont. At that time, the high court dismissed a case involving a same-sex marriage lawsuit with a order that there was no "substantial federal question" in a state’s decision to ban marriages by same-sex couples.

    • 2012-DEC-03: Lawsuit appealed: The plaintiffs in "Sevcik v. Sandoval" appealed their case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Because of the similarities between their lawsuit and those in Hawaii and Idaho, all three cases were scheduled to be heard in one session by the same panel of judges. The case were delayed until after the U.S. Supreme Court had issued their rulings in two major cases related to same-sex marriage: one dealing with the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the other with California's Proposition 8 case.

    • 2013-JUN-26: Impact of high court ruling: U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. This means that if a same-sex married couple lives in a state that recognizes their marriage, they will have access to 1,138 federal marriage-related programs, grants, benefits and protections, for the first time. This drastically increases the stakes involved in all marriage equality lawsuits. This decision eventually triggered many lawsuits involving marriage by same-sex couples in county, state, and federal courts. By the 3rd Quarter of 2014, one or more lawsuits to achieve marriage equality had been issued in every state that does not currently allow such marriages.

    • 2014-FEB-10: Attorney General & Governor give up: Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) announced that she will not try to defend Nevada’s constitutional amendment blocking gay marriages. She withdraw the brief in support of Nevada’s marriage ban that she had filed on JAN-24.

      The office of Governor Brian Sandoval (R), said that he agrees with A.G. Masto’s legal reasoning . He said that the constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriages is "no longer defensible in court." The governor is a former state attorney general and federal judge.

    • 2014-JUL-03: Appeal: The plaintiffs in Sevcik v. Sandoval appealed the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

More information about Sevcik v. Sandoval, including source references

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  • Hawaii: Jackson v. Abercrombie case from Hawaii:

    • 2011-NOV-18: Marriage attempt: Natasha Jackson and Janin Kleid had been in a committed relationship for four years. They applied for a marriage license from the state Health Department. They were refused because they are of the same gender.

    • 2011-DEC-07: Lawsuit filed: The couple launched a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court titled "Jackson v. Abercrombie." Lead defendent Neil Abercrombie was named in his official capacity as governor of Hawaii. Their case was based on the now familiar grounds that the couple's due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution were violated. The other defendant is: Loretta J. Fuddy, director of the state's health department.

      Later, Gary Bradley joined the case as a co-plaintiff. He is an American citizen who wanted to marry his male partner -- a foreign national. Being married would profoundly alter his partner's immigration status. Also, Hawaii Family Forum (HFF), a conservative Christian group opposed to same-sex marriage for religious reasons, joined the case as an intervener.

    • 2012-AUG-08: District Court ruling: U.S. District Court Judge Alan C. Kay ruled that the protections offered by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution do not extend to same-sex couples who wish to marry. His ruling stated, in part:

      "Throughout history and societies, marriage has been connected with procreation and child rearing. ... it is not beyond rational speculation to conclude that fundamentally altering the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions might result in undermining the societal understanding of the link between marriage, procreation, and family structure. ... "

      The HFF was represented by John D'Amato, an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom. He said:

      "The ruling affirms that protecting and strengthening marriage as the union of one man and one woman is legitimate, reasonable, and good for society."

      John D'Amato, lawyer for the three plaintiffs, said that they will appeal the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    • 2013-JUN-26: In an unrelated case, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional and that the federal goverment must treate same-sex and opposite-sex married couples equally. This upholds the Jackson v. Abercrombie plaintiffs' assertion that the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the federal Constitution do apply to their case. If the plaintiffs are eventually allowed to marry, they would have access to the benefits and protections offered by 1,138 federal programs on a par with opposite-sex married couples. This drastically raises the stakes.

      Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) issued a news release stating:

      "In Hawaii, we believe in fairness, justice and human equality, and that everyone is entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else, including the ability to get married. ... I am encouraged by the fact that language in the Windsor ruling supports my position in the Hawaii lawsuit, ... In that lawsuit, I argue the Constitution’s equal protection clause requires same sex marriage in all states, including Hawaii. 

More information about Jackson v. Abercrombie, including source references

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2014-JUL-03: The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals schedules hearing:

The 9th Circuit schuled oral arguments in the above three cases for 2014-SEP-08. A three-judge panel, randomly selected among the full court, consisted of Judges Stephen Reinhardt, Ronald M. Gould, and Marsha S. Berzon.

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This topic is continued in the next essay

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2014-SEP-09
Latest update: 2014-SEP-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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